Making the Most of Meetings at Work - Part One - The Executive Secretary Role

Frank Newberryin Consultancy

FrankNewberry2012I was recently asked to stand for election to serve on a number of brand new committees and Boards in the voluntary sector. I could try for Chair or Vice Chair, of a Congress size group of people (more than twenty members), or to serve on one of four smaller committees (less than twenty members each).

Once elected to one of the smaller committees, I might then be asked to stand for election as that committee's chair or vice chair. The organisation running these elections was also looking informally for minute-takers.

These committees are one of the ways the current government is trying to engage people in decision making locally. You may already be serving on one of these committees yourself.

Most of us hardly knew each other

I should point out that, in my case, everyone was being asked to stand for everything, so that people had some sort of a choice of candidates; even though most of us hardly knew each other or quite understood what the committees' powers would be.

It was, for this reason (the ignorance and the unfamiliarity), that I decided against standing for any of the jobs on offer, preferring instead to suggest that there was another way that I might help the Congress level people at their monthly meetings.

Accordingly, I can now reveal that, at the last meeting, under the heading of 'any other business'- I was elected unopposed and unanimously to be the Executive Secretary to Congress. I was also asked if I would be the minute-taker, but I declined. I will have my hands full enough, because it is the job of the Executive Secretary to assist the Chair by working to make the meetings themselves more productive.

My job was to be the 'engine oil'

When I first worked as an Executive Secretary, I was told that the committee was 'like an engine' which made all the decisions and carried out the action points. My job was to be the 'engine oil' that ensured the smooth running of the engine.

Coming up to date, my job will be to work with the Congress Chair - before, during and after meetings - by helping him to:

1. Prepare and circulate meaningful agendas (before the meeting)

2. Determine who does which action points (during the meeting)

3. Chase up the action points (after the meeting) so that progress is made as intended

In my first stint in this role, I served on three church charity committees whose members included foreign bankers from the City of London and top businessmen - all of whom were very busy in their 'day jobs'. I quickly realised why they were at the top of their profession - they worked hard and appreciated others who worked hard.
Fortunately for me, they all seemed to think that I was a hard worker, so they were very responsive to me and my regular 'reminders' to them about their action points.

The best job I ever had

Nowadays, when asked, I say it was the best job I ever had. Why? Because I had all of the power (in these relationships with committee members) and none of the responsibility. It was also the best job I ever had because the committees got so much more work done and this benefitted many, many people.

So, if your meetings at work need a boost, then consider giving someone the Executive Secretary role. In Part Two, I will look at decision making in meetings and some ground rules to keep them on track.

Frank Newberry has been helping people to get better results in the turfcare sector for over twenty years.

Exclusive to Pitchcare and coming this autumn - watch out for Frank's completely revised workshop: Essential Management Skills for Groundsmen and Greenkeepers.

If you are having problems and frustrations with meetings at work, and you think it might help to talk about it, you can get in touch with Frank directly via the contact tab of his personal website

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